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Indonesia jails former parliament speaker for 15 years over graft

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An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced the former speaker of parliament, Setya Novanto, to 15 years in jail for his role in causing state losses of around US$170 million, linked to a national electronic identity card scheme.

[JAKARTA] An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced the former speaker of parliament, Setya Novanto, to 15 years in jail for his role in causing state losses of around US$170 million, linked to a national electronic identity card scheme.

The case has shocked Indonesians, already used to large corruption scandals and has reinforced a widely held perception that their parliament, long regarded as riddled with corruption, is a failing institution.

"The defendant is found guilty of conspiring to commit corruption and is sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined 500 million rupiah," Yanto, the head of a panel of five judges, told the Jakarta court. The fine is equivalent to US$36,000.

Novanto would be barred from holding public office for five years after serving his sentence and have to repay US$7.3 million he was accused of plundering, added the judge, who goes by one name.

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In a session that ran for more than three hours, judges read out dozens of case notes, including descriptions of where the former speaker held meetings to divvy up cash made from a mark-up on a contract for the identity card.

Novanto showed little emotion as the judge read the verdict.

After a quick consultation with his legal team, he told the court he would take some time to consider whether to appeal the sentence.

Novanto is accused of orchestrating a scheme to steal US$173 million, or almost 40 per cent of the entire budget for a government contract for the national identity card.

Prosecutors, who had questioned 80 witnesses in the case, had sought a jail term of at least 16 years for the former speaker.

Novanto, who had been implicated in five graft scandals since the 1990s but never convicted, was detained by investigators last November after repeatedly missing summonses for questioning over the case, saying he needed heart surgery.

Indonesians have to contend with high levels of graft in many areas of their lives and the country placed 96th among 180 countries in Transparency International's annual corruption perceptions index last year, on par with Colombia and Thailand.

REUTERS